The Six Nations will also be affected by the move, losing one rest week
After passing through a Council vote, World Rugby have rubber-stamped a new biennial Nations Championship competition for the men’s game, which will feature two divisions of 12 Test teams and have no promotion-relegation until 2030.
Starting in in 2026, the Nations Championship top competition will include all of the Six Nations side, plus the four countries in the Rugby Championship – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa – as well as two other teams, expected to be but not guaranteed to be, Fiji and Japan. Matches will take place in July and November international windows, with a ‘grand final’ to be played.
With this new competition running every two years, we will have the Nations Championship in 2026, a Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027, the Championship again in the 2028, and then a British & Irish Lions tour in 2029. And so on like this, going forward. The first time a second division side can climb into the top faction will be in 2032 – the first iteration of the championship after the first round of promotion-relegation.
Ratifying this competition required at least 39 of World Rugby Council members to vote for it, with Argentina’s three representatives – including Agustin Pichot – reportedly set against the plans.
The passing of this proposal means that the calendar of global matches will need to shift. The Six Nations will retain its February-March window, however we will lose one of the two fallow weeks. The Rugby Championship will keep their August-September window.
World Rugby also promise: “A significant uplift in the number of cross-over matches between unions in the respective divisions are included in the global calendar in the two other years, providing performance nations with annual competition certainty against high performance unions.”
Other changes to global calendar
There will also be an annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup competition from 2024, featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, and USA. World Rugby have said that, taking turn about, finals rounds will be played in Japan and the US alternatively.
In the women’s game, World Rugby have also promised the “first-ever dedicated international release windows” to include regional release window of seven weeks and global release window of eight weeks from 2026.
What has been said about the Nations Championship
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has said: “We now look forward to an exciting new era for our sport commencing in 2026. An era that will bring certainty and opportunity for all. An era that will support the many, not the few, and an era that will supercharge the development of the sport beyond its traditional and often self-imposed boundaries. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their spirit of collaboration. Today, we have achieved something special.”
However, this moves has drawn criticism.
Sebastian Pineyrua, president of South American rugby, previously said: “It’s the death of rugby. It will kill rugby. It will be impossible to compete with those teams in four or five years. They’re going to go up and the others will go down.”